October 2013

TCF is a MSAN Demonstration Farm

. . . Oct 19, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Freedom Rangers enjoying lunch

Can we take a moment to celebrate the awesomeness of October?  October has the greatest potential for abundance and diversity in the garden because farmers can have both warm season and cool season crops.  The full complement of summer Freedom Ranger at 3ish weeks out roaming aroundcrops can be found at the farmers market including southern peas, tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, cucumbers, squash and okra.  It wont be long now before frost knocks all that out until next summer.  We are watching the weather forecast closely, having learned that a projected low of 40 degrees means it’s likely we will get at least a light frost.  Cool weather goodies we haven’t seen since spring are back, including lettuce, broccoli, kale, turnips and radishes and soon, very soon…CARROTS!  Yet, despite the wide variety of vegetables coming out of the garden in October, we have seen both our farmers markets slow down, as is typical at this time of the year.  So spread the word to all your friends and family; don’t miss the last tomatoes (and peppers, and eggplant, squash and okra) of the year!  Tell them that there is more NEW stuff every week as cool weather crops come in.  Can you believe that Yang Farm had homegrown rice at the market Saturday?!?!
 
Planting our winter cover cropThere are a couple of other reasons October is amazing.  The weather is fantastically and finally cooling off.  And the end of the season is in sight.  Just a few more pressing field work to-dos until we get to coast into November.  Time to start making the list of winter projects!
 
We at Tubby Creek Farm have another reason to celebrate!  We have been named a 2014 Demonstration Farm by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network as part of their Rooted in Mississippi program.  Apparently we managed to convince MSAN that we know enough about what we are doing to be able to teach something valuable to others interested or engaged in local sustainable agriculture.  Or maybe we were selected to demonstrate how not to do things?  Joking aside, we are honored to be named along with other farmers around the state whom we greatly admire.  As a demo farm, we will be hosting a field day/farm tour sometime in 2014 as part of a series hosted by MSAN, as well as participating in their speaker series and hosting a one month summer internship.  The award comes with some perks – a small operation grant, internship funding assistance, and professional consultation – but we are really looking forward to learning from other farmers.

Dressed out real nice averaging 5lbsRaising a good meat bird is a real challenge. We found the typical cornish cross birds to be slothful to the extreme. While they produce a nice "super market" type bird that is tasty we wanted something better. So now we are trying Freedom Rangers. These chickens take 10 to 12 weeks to raise vs. 7-8 but that extra time should mean even more flavor. They may not be as big breasted as the "super market" bird but tastier. Plus they are not at all as fat, dumb and lazy as the other meat chickens we have raised.

Coming Down the Home Stretch

. . . Oct 12, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Coming Down the Home Stretch

Our high tunnel is going up!  That’s the big news this week.  The team from Tubular Structures arrived Monday morning to start construction on the 30 foot by 72 foot structure.  We have spinach sprouting in the greenhouse that will be transplanted as soon as it is complete, as well as some assorted lettuces and red and yellow chard.  We will be able to use the tunnel to grow crops longer into the fall and have veggies earlier in the spring, and perhaps even have more to harvest in the dead of winter.  Most of the cost of the high tunnel itself will be reimbursed to us by the NRCS EQIP program.  Although it was a significant extra expense to have the team install it for us, we are grateful not to have a major construction project added to our to-do list right now!
 
Did you know your farmers are famous?  There is a short video of us filmed in April of last year on the Farm Again website.  Farm Again provides education and technical assistance to promote independence for members of the agricultural community who have disabilities. Here is a direct link to the video.
 
Fall is a lovely time of year.  Most of the field is being put to bed for the winter.  I had the exceptionally gratifying experience of bush-hogging down the corn, the old tomato patch, and most of the okra so that is can be turned in and the winter cover crop planted.  Besides the satisfaction of making the field tidier, there is also the joy of knowing I won’t have to pick that okra again!  Good riddance you lousy caterpillar infested stand of sweet corn!  It is time for the garden to rest, and almost time for the farmers to rest, too.

Farm Tours and Learning

. . . Oct 05, 2013 | posted by Josephine
Pig in the feeding trough

We are always learning!  Whether through internet research and webinars or the more organic process of trial and error there is always more to know about ecological farming.  On Sunday, Randy and I went down to Mississippi’s “Golden Triangle” to attend three farm visits hosted by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN).
 
Farm tour looking, learning ad SMELLING compostFarm tour at Bountiful HarvestThe farms we visited included a farm producing pastured eggs and produce, a diversified Salatin-style livestock operation raising laying hens, broiler chickens, turkey, pigs and cows, and an urban farm growing vegetables for a 20-member CSA.  We got to see how effective pigs are in clearing out forest undergrowth, hear what 600 laying hens sounds like (loud), and see what kind of facility it takes to process over 100 chickens per hour.  Just as useful as seeing three other farming operations was talking with other farmer-participants on topics ranging from American Guinea Hogs to winter-killed cover crops.  I left thinking about how we can use our chickens more efficiently as fertilizing machines – especially after seeing six foot tall eggplant grown with chicken manure compost.  Randy says his biggest take home message from the day was that, when held up against other sustainable farms in Mississippi, we really are doing all right.  While I am reserving judgment pending a close examination of the balance sheet, I think he is on to something.
 
As for trial and error: this fall we have learned that 300 feet of salad turnips is probably too much to plant at one time.  We have already harvested about 150 bunches from this super-productive bed and have many more to go.    There will be salad turnips again in the CSA this week.; sometimes when it rains, it pours.  We keep them topped and washed in the fridge for easy snacking, but here are a few additional ideas for your salad turnips:
·         Deliciously crunchy refrigerator pickles
·         Grate with kohlrabi and radish for a zesty slaw
·         Stir fry with kolrabi and bok choy!
·         Roast ‘em, perhaps with some of those left over sweet potatoes   Roasted vegetables are great on a bed of greens with goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar